Thursday, August 25, 2005

California Post 3

The past three days I've spent at Yosemite National Park. I was very impressed. They have beautiful tall redwood trees everywhere, tall waterfalls, crystal clear rivers, and more rock formations than you can shake a stick or any other large pointy object at.

We didn't have reservations, but we were able to find the nicest camp site of any there at a small backpackers camp just north of a main camping area, complete with running water and flushing toilets! Many people book their site a year in advance and don't get anything as roomy or convenient as our site. The down side was that we had to hike with our stuff about a mile from where we parked, but we packed light enough that it wasn't a big issue.

Our first day there we went to Lower Yosemite Falls for some swimming and site seeing. There was excellent bouldering to be had at the falls, it took us about 20 minutes at a leisurely pace to work our way up to the base of the falls. The water at the falls is cold. REALLY cold. After being in the water for about 15 minutes the best I felt was stinging pain all over my body. What was most surprising was that the water was at least 8 feet deep in places, but I could see all the way to the bottom. This is something I'm not accustomed to coming from MN lakes. We sunned ourselves on the rocks for about an hour while watching the climbers work their way up the cliff face next to the waterfall, then headed back to camp for the evening.

As far as hiking goes, Yosemite has it all. Anything from leisurely hikes/drives to see the more well known sites to multiple week/month hikes to experience the park first hand. Our second day there, we chose to do the trail to Half Dome, which was the only trail listed as "Extremely Strenuous", the most difficult designation for the Yosemite trails.

The plan was to make a day hike out of the 19 mile (from our campsite) round trip journey so we left camp at 7:00 a.m. We soon learned why the trail was designated extremely strenuous. The entire 8.5 miles from the trail head was uphill. At times there were stairs which stretched on for miles, and other times simply a steep dirt and rock trail leading us through the woods. The scenery was majestic. We passed by two waterfalls, various streams, rivers, and gorges which thirsted for the blood of hikers.

At the half way point to Half Dome, we ran into a group of hikers that informed us the final leg of the hike was closed for construction until 4:00. We weren't very pleased since this new development put us 5 hours behind schedule, but were determined to finish the hike. Two hours and 6 sore legs later, we made it to the base of Half Dome.

We hung out for 5 hours waiting for the construction workers to finish their shift so we could start up the trail. They were adding stone stairs to the dome, something that didn't seem necessary, but I can see how it would be nice to have. About an hour of our time was spent talking to the ranger guarding the trail. It is amazing the stuff you learn when talking to these rangers. Apparently since national parks are under federal jurisdiction they need their own court house and jail, all of which are within the park. When we asked about a man who died in the park a month prior, the ranger told us a woman fell off the falls we were swimming in the day before and died, just a couple hours after we left! It is amazing how people are so concerned about bear attacks and other wildlife, but forget that they need to be careful near 300 foot cliffs with fast moving water flowing over them.

Eventually we were allowed to head up Half Dome. There were about 30 people waiting to head up, but we managed to spearhead our way to the front of the group. It was easily the most difficult leg of the hike. Stairs stretched up as far as could be seen over the curve of the rock and it did not take long before my legs were burning. After the stairs came a 40 degree sloped rock to walk up for a couple hundred feet before we reached the famed "cables."

The cables are used as hand rails to keep you from plummeting to your death as you climb the 50+ degree slope of Half Dome. If it weren't for the fact that we had been hiking all day and breathing thin air, it probably wouldn't have felt like we were going to pass out. Unfortunately, we had been hiking all day in thin air.

Reaching the top felt great. We could see the whole park in all its glory. It made the whole grueling hike worth it. Since we had such a late start, the last couple hours of the trip back to camp were in the dark, but the flashlights kept alive long enough to get us back safe and sound.

A few pictures:

Saturday, August 20, 2005

California Post 2

Today we went to a place simply known as the “Mystery Spot.” It is a fairly accurate name. Gravity seems to have different rules while you are in this 300 foot diameter circle. I thought for sure before we went in that it had to be a hoax, but after watching water run uphill on a surface a level says is definitely uphill I was a believer. In certain places you can even stand at a 17 degree slant without falling over. It sure is weird looking straight down and seeing your feet behind you. UPDATE: I'd like to think I'm a logical thinker, but I was totally taken. I did some further research and found my initial suspicions were true.

After the Mystery Spot we headed out to the beach for a big bash my sister organized in my honor. It was a massive beach, stretching out for miles. On one end there was a whole amusement park complete with roller coasters right on the water’s edge and then on the other a ton of sand, volleyball nets, and fire pits. For whatever reason Californians don’t seem to like the ocean, myself, my sister, and one of her roommates were the only ones out of a group of 50+ people that ended up getting in the water. Why live next to the ocean if you don’t like the water? I don’t think I’ll ever understand these people. Still, we were able to get people into the volleyball, a game of touch football, and roasting marshmallows around the bonfire.

Through out the night I and one of the guys at the party were joking about doing a midnight surf run, then at about 9:45 he was taking off. I accused him of backing out on our plan, and to my surprise he took off his jacket and without missing a beat said, “Let’s go.” I stripped down to my suit, and he was in his street cloths and we made a mad dash for the ocean, screaming the whole way. It was cold, wet, and the most exciting thing we did that day.

Friday, August 19, 2005

California Post 1

Just to warn you, these entries are going to be long. I tend to get carried away when I have some time to actually write a little. I left today to see my sister out in CA. The plan is to stay there a week, so some hiking in Yosemite, spend some time on the beach, do some salsa dancing, and who knows what else. A mutual friend of my sister and I is flying out from NY so it will be the three of us finding adventure for the next week. Should be a good time.

My girlfriend (yes, its now official) was out in Atlanta this week for training. Her flight was scheduled to land here at 7:00, and my plane was scheduled to leave at 8:35. Since we were at different terminals, I wasn’t expecting to be able to see her until I returned, a total of two weeks apart. She surprised me by flying standby on an earlier flight and we were able to meet up for a quick food court dinner before my flight. It wasn’t long, and it is probably cheesy for me to even bring up, but I thought it was pretty cool that she went so far out of her way for such a short amount of time.

On the plane I met the two nicest mother-in-laws going to visit their daughter/son in CA. They seem to have so much fun together, it is amazing. The one hasn’t spent more than 2 nights away from her husband since they were married 22 years ago. Wow. I’m not sure if that is cute or way too codependent. I’d lean toward the latter.


Carlson orientation. I finally got to see where I’ll be spending the next 3-4 years of my life. I went a couple hours early to tour the campus and buy my books from the bookstore. I had never really seen the U of M campus before, it is a beautiful campus. I walked from the West Bank over to the East Bank, the east is definitely nicer. It is a shame I’ll never be able to spend any time over there. Both old and newly archtectied buildings and bridges, well kept gardens, lawns, trees, and some of the nicest walk ways I’ve seen.

I had almost forgot how much of a wallet raping college is. I dropped $146 on an accounting book and $63 on a packet of photocopied paper. It doesn’t seem right. Now I remember why I got out and got myself a real job ;)

Orientation was 8 hours, lasting until 7:30 at night. It was probably the worst timing possible. Not only did I have to take a vacation day for it, but they ended so late it monopolized my evening. What is wrong with 8-4? I guess no one ever said school made sense.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

More Wedding Fun

Sunday I went to the wedding of couple friends from church, they are fellow youth group leaders with me. I’ve been to a couple other youth leader weddings, and as a general rule they are a lot of fun. There is something about that whole group of people that just lends them to be fun people, more so than your average run of the mill folk.

Still, as with every wedding, I have my comments. After going to as many weddings as I have, it is near impossible for me not to dissect them. I’ve never been a big fan of the Sunday wedding, and this one reinforces that thought. The best part of any wedding is the wedding dance (unless you are the bride/groom, but I’ll let you figure that one out), but unfortunately Sunday weddings don’t warrant themselves well to staying up until midnight busting a move to the latest Emeniem song when work is looming in the morning. I felt bad leaving at 9:30, but it was a 30 minute drive home and it had already been a long weekend. The wedding service itself seemed to run a little long for my tastes as well. Not that it matters, they should do whatever they want for their wedding. But being forced to sit through a 15 minute slide show after an hour service seemed a bit excessive.

Heidi in Concert!

I have a ton to write about, but have had no time as of late, still I had to get this urgent nugget out there. I know a lot of you have seen my cousin Heidi play, well, this weekend is her biggest gig ever, Higher Ground. She is the only unsigned artist playing at the festival and will be sharing the stage with Michael W. Smith, the Supertones, Rebecca St. James, Barlow Girl, and a number of others. If you don't have plans this weekend, go support her!

Band List(direct link to Heidi's listing):

I'm headed to CA tomorrow, so I'll do my best to write some updates while waiting around in the airport and on the plane.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Skiing: Always an Adventure

Last weekend I went water skiing with my Dad. It had been 2 years since we had been skiing together, mainly due to him getting married and buying a house. This was our second time on the water this year. The first time the boat had issues with some spark plugs not firing, so we never were able to ski. Now Dad had all that fixed and I was ready for a full weekend of wet water fun.

We were about 5 minutes on the water, checking out the lake looking for calm water when Dad saw a small inlet. He was convinced that another lake joined up and this was where it came in. We decided to check it out. Dad started accelerating into the inlet and after I mentioned the bouyies up ahead and how we should probably slow down he gunned it.

The sounds I heard over the next 1.5 seconds were some of the most gut wrenching screams of pain I've ever heard come from a marine vessel. The nashing of propeller on rock and fiberglas scraping on lake bottom ripped through the air, and took my hopes of a weekend of skiing with it. We were in less than a foot of water and what was connected to the engine could hardly be called a prop any more.

Dad felt pretty stupid and was very sorry about the whole situation. We ended up spending the next 2 hours tracking down a boat shop that was still open and were luck enough to find a replace the prop. The last prop of its kind in southern MN. The weekend was saved!

It was certainly a close call, but we were able to still enjoy the weekend. Below is a picture of me tearing it up.

One Of Those Embarrassing (A.K.A. Fun At My Expense) Moments

I haven't posted in a while, although it hasn't been for lack of material. It has been a hectic few weeks. Work is busy as always, youth group is wrapping up, and I've started seeing the girl I posted about earlier a lot more. She is still moving to the east coast at the end of the month, there isn't anything that can change that. For now we're planning to see how things go, and then figure out what to do come the end of the month. Nothing like the pressure of the clock to really make you think things over.

We met up last night and went for a walk around the neighborhood. The sun was down and we were walking through a school playground. I have horrible night vision and there were no streetlights nearby so the whole playground was near to impossible for me to see. We walked to the edge of the sand, where there was a short wooden barrier to keep the sand from spilling into the grass. Luckily, I saw it in time not to trip over it. I took my next step over the barrier and to my horror the world fell away around me, or more like I fell away from it. I learned very quickly the barrier I stepped over was 4 feet above the ground. This was very funny to one of us and rather painful for the other! As mean as it sounds, it really was a rather humorous situation. One second we are having a serious conversation and the next I'm lying on the ground in a muddle puddle 4 feet below. She was laughing the whole way home.